Saturday, May 27, 2017

Oaxaca. Cuilapan: the Refectory murals

For the last of our three posts on the murals at Santiago Cuilapan we look at the ill preserved but important frescoes located in the former refectory of the convento (#10 on the map).
The Refectory (Sala de Profundis)
The murals in this room fall into two categories. Along the side walls, framed by colorful floral friezes and dadoes, outsize ornamental cartouches portray a variety of Dominican saints, bishops and dignitaries, famous and obscure. 
   Rendered in reds, blues and shades of brown, most of the bust style portraits are individually identified by inscriptions, although not all legible. All are in poor condition and in urgent need of careful restoration:
Bishop ?;    St. Antonine Lara  (©Marina Heyman)
St. Raymond of Penyafort;  St. Augustine ?
The Last Supper
At the far end of the room two even more damaged murals, with later superimpositions, flank an empty center niche. On the left is a partial Last Supper scene, with Christ at top center flanked by the Apostles around a table—clearly indicating the original use of this room as the convento refectory.
   On the other side, an even more fragmentary scene in the same style apparently shows Christ washing the feet of his disciples.
Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, partial
In both these frescoes, the figures are elegantly outlined in warm gray and accented with reddish brown robes. They appear to predate the more ornamental wall portraits, suggesting a later use of the chamber as the Sala de Profundis or friars' chapel of the convento.
text © 2017 Richard D. Perry
color images courtesy of Niccolò Brooker except where noted

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